Why allowing 'shop-top' living in Fitzmaurice Street is worth consideration: opinion

IT’S a place real estate agents would euphemistically call “cosy”, a home about the size of two car parking spaces.

Fitzmaurice Street

Fitzmaurice Street

Lara Noble, Andrew Carter and their four-week-old daughter live in the snug 18 square house in the inner-city Brisbane suburb of Red Hill, only a short stroll to the CBD.

The place is a triumph of minimalist design – the bed drops down from the roof via remote control and the dining table folds out from the wall.

Living in a shoebox can have its challenges, but the couple says the benefits of living close to the city make them worth it.

In post-industrial Australia, the lines between where we work, shop and live are blurring.

In new suburbs like Canberra’s Gungahlin, planners have purposely integrated business and residential.

The higher density planning has created a safer CBD, had environmental benefits and helped cut down on urban sprawl.

Of course, Wagga doesn’t have the same growing pains as Canberra but many of the benefits of main street living remain the same.

As such, Cr Paul Funnell’s call for a planning shake-up of Fitzmaurice Street has merit.

Once the beating heart of our city, Fitzmaurice Street has been consigned to an unedifying slow demise in recent decades.

And despite reinventing itself as a dining precinct over the past year, much of the street still looks haggard.

The rapidly growing digital economy means the prospect of new businesses coming in to invigorate the area is unlikely.

The rezoning of the street and creation of new residential areas could be its saviour.

It would give it a point of difference from Baylis Street and fit in neatly with the food and bar flavour of Fitzmaurice.

And there would certainly be demand for that style of living.

Before retrograde changes to Wagga’s development control plan (DCP) in 2010, “shop top” units were permissible.

One of Wagga’s leading real estate agents, Richard Fitzpatrick, revealed scores of developers have walked away from investing in the city because of the changes.

Council GM Alan Eldridge, who is unashamedly pro-business, is reportedly reviewing the DCP.

This could be his chance to make an enduring mark on one of Wagga’s most important streets.

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